Elmhurst University's Senior of the Year is now a teacher
Recent Elmhurst University graduate Hiba Anees was named the university's Senior of the Year, an award given to a senior who excels in academics, involvement on campus and exemplifies what it means to be an Elmhurst University graduate.
The Woodridge resident was a special education major and involved on campus as president of the Student Government Association, a member of the Muslim Student Association, a life coach and adviser for Elmhurst Learning and Success Academy students, as well as a peer adviser for first-year students.
"Being on SGA and then also being in the special ed world can be hand-in-hand, advocating for my peers and my students," Anees said. "When I got the confidence to advocate for the people that I went to school with, it was very nice to kind of transition into advocating for students with special needs."
To Anees, being named Senior of the Year assured her that all of her work on campus was seen and recognized.
"It was just so assuring that everything that I did on campus was seen," Anees said. "Just being able to see that they recognize that in me and see that I have that true, genuine passion for the university as a whole was just so heartwarming."
Three people served as mentors to Anees during her time at Elmhurst University: Lisa Burke, a professor; Phil Riordan, vice president for student affairs; and Cheryl Leoni, dean of students and director of the Frick Center.
"I don't think there was a better candidate to be chosen as Senior of the Year," Burke said. "In my heart, I knew Hiba was going to win because she is so talented and has made such an impact on all of the people at Elmhurst."
"As a student at Elmhurst University, to be named Senior of the Year, that's the most prestigious award we give. Hiba was incredibly well-deserving of it," Riordan said. "(She's) just a wonderful person with a big soul."
Anees now is working in Elmhurst Unit District 205, the school district where she once was a student-teacher.
Anees spent the summer working with a school district's extended school year program. Now that the school year has started, she's transitioned to her first year in the classroom as an elementary self-contained special education teacher.
"A lot of the students that I'm teaching right now are the students that I'll have next year," Anees said. "I'm very excited to get to know them, get to build that relationship with them and have that connection as we're going through the school year."
In the future, Anees aims to move into an administration role within the education world and said the experience and leadership skills she gained in college will be helpful.
"Hiba is, wow, she's a go-getter," Burke said. "I know she's going to just provide so much for the students that she is going to teach, and their families as well."